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Partnership announces winners of Inclusion Awards, launches Employers 4 Equity playbooks


As part of its 10th annual Inclusion Summit, the Greater Des Moines Partnership named the recipients of its 2022 Inclusion Awards on Wednesday at the FFA Enrichment Center at Des Moines Area Community College in Ankeny.

The awards honor and celebrate the success of business organizations that have championed diversity, equity and inclusion. Winners must be a member or investor of the Partnership, and are chosen by a committee made up of members of the Partnership’s Inclusion Council and the Partnership team.

Award winners were:

  • Principal Financial Group in the large organization category. Principal has 10 employee resource groups with a total of 3,725 members representing diverse communities in areas such as race and ethnicity, gender and LGBTQ+. The company also has placed an added focus on career development and recruiting talent from diverse backgrounds.
  • ARAG Legal Insurance in the medium organization category. ARAG created a DEI committee that highlights and embraces the traits and characteristics that make employees uniquely themselves and has helped educate clients on how to meet the needs of diverse audiences.
  • Business Publications Corp. in the small organization category. BPC, which is the parent company of the Business Record, has been intentional in attracting, retaining and advancing talent across diverse communities internally, and has worked to expand diversity and inclusion efforts in vendor strategies and increase representation across all dimensions of diversity in its products, services and events.
  • Evelyn K. Davis Center for Working Families in the nonprofit category. The center is intentional with its diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging efforts in terms of hiring strategies and building relationships with the people and communities it serves.
  • Polk County in the public entity category. The county hired a diversity, inclusion and organizational development specialist in November 2021 and established a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility Committee in April 2022. The Board of Supervisors provides grant and sponsorship opportunities to community organizations that promote DEI in their programs and events.
  • Athene Black & Brown Business Summit for the Equity Innovation Award. The summit, which is hosted through the West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce, has for two years existed to elevate ethnic minorities and bring people of color together to assist with connection-building, programming, promotion and training and to provide resources to help their businesses grow and prosper.

“The six Inclusion Award winners for 2022 have demonstrated a strong commitment to advancing in their DEI journey,” Marvin DeJear, chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer at the Partnership, said. “They are committed to intentionally investing time and effort to make meaningful change in their organizations and beyond.”

The summit also featured a series of keynotes and panel discussions about the importance of DEI work in individual organizations and communities.

In the DSM 4 Equity Collective panel discussion led by Teree Caldwell-Johnson, collective tri-chairs Renee Hardman, Marta Codina and Tanner Krause spoke about the work they’ve accomplished over the past 18 months.

The collective is an effort developed through Capital Crossroads in February 2021 that’s composed of selected community stakeholders who engage in the development of DEI in all community efforts with a mission to develop tools, plans and goals that can build more equitable practices across the metro.  

When asked why she said yes to serving on the committee, Codina said she felt a responsibility to lift up underrepresented communities, especially as an immigrant herself.  

“I feel it’s my time to use my voice,” she said.

Hardman acknowledged that although she’s the first Black woman to serve on the West Des Moines City Council, she wants to work for a future where Black women can say they’re “the 10th, 11th and 12th.”

“We have to be intentional about changing the status quo and not be afraid to rock the boat,” she said. “We need to move beyond Iowa Nice and speak the truth.”

Krause talked about his privilege as a white man who is the CEO of a big company, and used the analogy of being born at lap 7½ of an eight-lap race. He also gave an anecdote of being told that he was the “Trojan horse” of the group.

You’re going to be able to open doors, get funding and say things that if I said, it wouldn’t be received the same way, Krause recalled someone telling him.

“That helped me understand the experience for nonwhite males in the community,” he said.

The panel introduced the collective’s Employers 4 Equity Playbooks, which were developed as a response to findings from Arrowhead Consulting’s anonymous survey of 200 employers in the region, which covered topics including recruitment, retention, data collection and training.

The playbooks include practices for employers at three levels of the DEI journey ? exploring, discovering and leading ? and focus on seven areas of interest: compliance and accountability; equitable philanthropy; equitable talent management; leadership and representation; policy development and advocacy; supplier diversity; and training and education.

The playbooks are available at the DSM 4 Equity website.

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